After nearly 20 years as a consumer insights professional, I was starting to think I’d seen and done it all. Of course, that’s not even remotely true, and there’s always something new to learn when it comes to human behavior. But at the end of last year, that’s just the truth of how I was feeling. I could tell I was at risk of going through the motions and falling into a trap of complacency, and I knew I needed to shake things up. I committed to connecting with a beginner’s mindset in order to reignite my passion and curiosity in my chosen career.
I decided I needed to take a bold action to get back on course, do something that felt scary and challenging, and that required a big personal commitment. So, this past winter, I enrolled in a 12-week virtual Design Thinking Executive Education Program at the prestigious Stanford Graduate School of Business, hosted by edtech giant, Great Learning. The course was led by renowned Professor Stefanos Zenios who launched Stanford’s popular “Startup Garage” entrepreneurship course that has birthed over 130 successful new ventures, including DoorDash. In other words, this is a professor who knows what he’s talking about, and it was such a privilege to learn from him.
My program peers included successful entrepreneurs, MDs, Attorneys, Non-Profit leaders, policymakers, and business professionals from around the globe. From the start, I wondered if I was in over my head. Could I really hold my own amongst classmates who held multiple advanced degrees, who spoke multiple languages, or who had started million-dollar companies? I am proof that even career veterans can get caught up in feelings of imposter syndrome.
Besides the occasional webinar, industry conference, and company training, I hadn’t completed anything close to a formal, structured academic program in two full decades. Heck, I didn’t have a laptop – or even a cell phone – the last time I was enrolled in university.
But, I didn’t give up. I committed 8 hours a week for a full quarter of coursework, on top of a full-time workload, to formally immerse myself in the world of Design Thinking.
For the uninitiated, Design Thinking is a creative, iterative, human-centered problem-solving process. It begins with building empathy and understanding of the needs of whoever the “end user” will be. Then, the process moves into imagining potential solutions, and prototyping and testing solutions with end-users. In some circles, Design Thinking is referred to as the “4-Ds Framework” (Discover, Define, Develop, and Deliver).
Here are 4 lessons and reminders that I took away from my back-to-the-classroom venture into Design Thinking…
Participating in the 12-week Design Thinking Course accomplished exactly what I hoped it would. It helped to re-spark my curiosity, it challenged and grew my skills as an insight professional, and it gave me the knowledge and confidence to get more creative in my approach to working with clients.
Am I ready to sign up for another big course? Ha! Not yet. But, I definitely won’t let another 20 years pass without getting back to the classroom to gain some outside inspiration and keep me on my toes.
What’s something new and inspiring you’ve learned or experienced recently that has helped reignite, or affirm, your career passion? We’d love to hear about it!